If you come to Uruguay for long enough you will discover that besides their very bland cuisine tastes and mate drinking, Uruguayans do not throw anything away. Rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. They use and use and use until something is falling apart. And then they try to figure out how to fix it before giving in and making something else out of the item. I cannot tell you how many holes and patches I have found in my boyfriend’s clothing. I finally bought the poor guy socks for Christmas because a pair he wore to my house had a hole big enough to stick my fist through.
Not only is Uruguay very expensive, where the minimum salary cannot even cover rent, but Uruguayans also take pride in their items. Therefore used clothing, toys and even cars are still more than sellable. In fact, you will see cars that are literally falling apart driving down the Rambla more than you will see anything new. Even my own United States mother spent hours washing out ziplock bags and reusing bottles. While national recycling is still not as popular as I want it to be, Uruguayans naturally recycle in their own home with their own things.
I wouldn’t say the Uruguayans are hoarders because they really don’t buy much. There is very little excess in an Uruguayan home, especially an apartment home. However, once they have decided that an item is no longer worth keeping or fixing it doesn’t end up in the trash. It ends up at the ferias. One person’s let-go is another person’s income. Either trash horses come along to collect sellable items from the dumpsters OR the owners themselves will put down a blanket at a Feria and try to sell as they sip their mate. My friends and I have participated in this at the Tristen Narvaja Feria, albeit not very successfully.
Well, if you are a UAS student, parent or teacher and you are quickly trying to get rid of items because you are leaving, the best place to sell is the UAS gymnasium. Once a year, the parent association puts on a Feria in our gym. Parents, teachers, and even classes of students buy tables to sell items. The sixth graders raised money for turtle saving. The Juniors raised money for next year’s prom. I tagged along with the exiting expats to try to sell some left-over clothes I no longer wanted. Really, I just wanted to see the feria in action.
I am sure that I have mentioned before that our school is super wealthy. Well, the kids are at least super wealthy. Of all of the people in Uruguay who can afford to simply throw things away, our families are at the top. But here they were, table after table, item after item selling what they could. It made me really happy. It was like a little rebellion against the capitalist and bourgeoisie system. We may have boat loads of money and probably a literal boat, but darn-it we are going to get a few hundred pesos for these family board games.
So here we all were, selling our possessions. Michael was standing next to me practically giving away his and Juan’s clothes, shouting ropa muy barata! 10 pesos! There was Brad with all of his crazy expensive electronics, Katie with miscellaneous items from who knows where, Ana trying to sell everything she ever purchased in Uruguay and an absent Greg and Nancy (who were sipping wine in Carmela) trying desperately to get rid of a whoopsie bike purchase by Greg. And then there was me, soaking it all in. Because as Ed Short’s granddaughter, there is nothing I love more than a good ol’ yard sale.